Following is a sampling of some classic essays and shorter articles written by David Berlinski. A printed collection of essays is available in The Deniable Darwin and Other Essays (DI Press, 2009).


“The Activity of a Cell Is Like That of a Factory”

It is always interesting to see how observations that we have been making for years are now a part of the general chatter. From “Science without Validation in a World without Meaning,” by Edward R. Dougherty, Distinguished Professor of Electrical Engineering at Texas A&M, writing in the journal American Affairs:  "At the cellular level, biology concerns the operation of the cell in its pursuit of life, not simply the molecular infrastructure that forms the physiochemical underpinnings of life. The activity of a cell is like that of a factory, where machines manufacture products, energy is consumed, information is stored, information is processed, decisions are made, and signals are sent to maintain proper factory organization and operation.12 Once a factory

Majestic Ascent: Phillip Johnson’s Darwin on Trial

Editor’s note: Phillip E. Johnson, Berkeley law professor and author of Darwin on Trial and other books, died on November 2. Evolution News is sharing remembrances from Fellows of Discovery Institute. Dr. Berlinski’s essay is drawn from his new book, out on November 11, Human Nature, currently available for pre-ordering. Richard Dawkins published The Blind Watchmaker in 1986.1 The appearance of design in nature, Dawkins argued, is an illusion. Complex biological structures may be entirely explained by random variations and natural selection. Why biology should be quite so vested in illusions, Dawkins did not say. The Blind Watchmaker captured the public’s imagination, but in securing the public’s allegiance, very little was left to chance. Those critics who believed

Letter from Paris: The Bells Are Silent

I have lived within half a city block of Notre Dame for the last twenty years. I saw the spire from my bedroom window every morning, and at noon, or in the evening, on leaving my apartment, I could touch the cathedral walls. I always directed taxi drivers to head for Notre Dame, and even if they had never heard of rue Chanoinesse — my street — they knew how to get there.  My father played on the cathedral’s organ, and after his concert, when the cathedral was deserted, he played Bach’s Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor for my wife and me, the sound booming. In winter, when there were few tourists, I would go into the cathedral and light a candle for M.-P. Schützenberger. He had wished to return as one of the gargoyles, and, perhaps, he had. No building has ever been more a

A One-Man Clade

The problems associated with the biological character problem are so complex and multifaceted and this issue is so conceptually immature that any single author's account is doomed to be too narrow and lopsided to be of much use.Günter Wagner1 Had Stephen Meyer better appreciated the tools of modern cladistics, Nick Matzke believes, he would not have drawn the conclusions that he did in his book Darwin's Doubt, or argued as he had. Meyer is in this regard hardly alone. It would seem that Stephen Jay Gould was just slightly too thick to have appreciated, and the eminent paleontologist James Valentine just slightly too old to have acquired, the methods that Matzke, writing at Panda's Thumb, is disposed to champion. Should Valentine be appointed to Matzke's dissertation committee at

A Graduate Student Writes

Editor's Note: Since Darwin’s Doubt was published on June 18 more than 65 reviews have been posted on Amazon. In addition, Panda's Thumb, a blog dedicated to the defense of evolutionary theory, published a lengthy critique by Nick Matzke on June 19. On July 3, The New Yorker followed with a review that drew heavily on Matzke’s post. We are delighted that the book has already provoked such a spirited response. With this reply to just some of the questions that Nick Matzke raised in his review, we continue, and will continue, to use ENV as a platform for discussing the issues raised in critical (and other) reviews of the the book. Look for thoughtful and vigorous responses to other critiques of Darwin's Doubt at ENV in the future. David Berlinski, mathematician and

The Ineffable Higgs

Surely its discovery meant something? The Standard Model (SM) of particle physics demanded its existence, after all; and the demand was met. If it took forty years and more than $16 billion to discover the thing, physicists could with satisfaction observe that the public got what it paid for, the first step, of course, in demanding that the public pay for more of what it got. Photographs of Peter Higgs staring tenderly into space, ses yeux perdus, conveyed an impression of appropriate intellectual satisfaction. The discovery was announced; the story reported; and then there was silence. Physicists endeavoured, of course, to maintain the impression that they had discovered something of inestimable value. They were game. Writing in The Daily Beast, Sean Carroll predicted that the Higgs

A Flower of Chivalry: Berlinski on Hitchens, 1949-2011

Christopher Hitchens's friends loved him without reservation, and at his death, they have praised him without restraint. I knew Hitchens only slightly. We had met over the course of four days in Birmingham, Alabama, where we participated in a debate. Hitchens was already gravely ill. I do not think he was yet in pain, but plainly he was suffering from the effects of chemotherapy. He walked slowly, and when he spoke in his rich plumy baritone, he spoke from a place far away. The debate between us was far less a debate than a celebration of his determination again to appear in public. Before the debate, Hitchens found himself surrounded by well-known figures from New York and Washington, D.C. He enjoyed their attention, and if he had on this occasion earned it by approaching the

Majestic Ascent: Berlinski on Darwin on Trial

Richard Dawkins published The Blind Watchmaker in 1985. The appearance of design in nature, Dawkins argued, is an illusion. Complex biological structures may be entirely explained by random variations and natural selection. Why biology should be quite so vested in illusions, Dawkins did not say. The Blind Watchmaker captured the public's imagination, but in securing the public's allegiance, very little was left to chance. Those critics who believed that living systems appear designed because they are designed underwent preemptive attack in the New York Times. "Such are the thought habits of uncultivated intellects," wrote the biologist Michael Ghiselin, " -- children, savages and simpletons." Comments such as these had the effect of raw meat dropped carelessly among carnivores. A

Responding to Stephen Fletcher's Views in the Times Literary Supplement on the RNA World

To the Editor The Times Literary Supplement The RNA World Sir: Having with indignation rejected the assumption that the creation of life required an intelligent design, Mr Fletcher has persuaded himself that it has proceeded instead by means of various chemical scenarios. These scenarios all require intelligent intervention. In his animadversions, Mr Fletcher suggests nothing so much as a man disposed to denounce alcohol while sipping sherry. The RNA world to which Mr Fletcher has pledged his allegiance was introduced by Carl Woese, Leslie Orgel and Francis Crick in 1967. Mystified by the appearance in the contemporary cell of a chicken in the form of the nucleic acids, and an egg in the form of the proteins, Woese, Orgel and Crick argued that at some time in the past, the chicken was the

An Open Letter to Donald Prothero

Hey Don -- I want you should do me a favor. I noticed that you put up this real negative review of Steve Meyer's Signature in the Cell on Amazon. I want to tell you, I loved the stuff about the slow fuse and all. It brought back memories of the time Boom Boom Salacio was a Senior Fellow at the DI. The Putznagel Salami Fire? That was Boom Boom. We all miss the Big Guy at the DI. But here's the thing. The moment your review hit the stands, bang! sales of Meyer's book go through the roof. I mean you're taking Boom Boom to a whole new level. So I was thinking that maybe you could give my book a negative review too? Make it a real scorcher and all. It's called The Devil's Delusion: Atheism and its Scientific Pretensions. I mean, how long did it take to write the Meyer review? Five minutes,

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